We are relieved here in Bracketville. At last we don't have to hear any more bleating about the bubble teams. Selection Sunday was crushing to the Vs: Vanderbilt, Virginia and Villanova weren't invited to the NCAAs; neither was the team Dick Vitale stumped for, Notre Dame. Notre Dame isn't in because members of the selection committee happened to notice Notre Dame has 14 losses.
No at-large team has 14 losses. Notre Dame has quality wins, but college basketball has a technical term for 14 losses: It's called ''a lot'' of losses. Mid-major conference division champions Bowling Green and College of Charleston don't have 14 losses combined, and the NCAA wouldn't let them in with a guide dog.
We are excited here in Bracketville that Long Island's Hofstra -- alma mater of Francis Ford Coppola, Lanie Kazan and New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey -- got into the NCAA for the first time since 1977, when Hofstra lost in the first round to Notre Dame. Twenty-three years is the longest absence of any of the 64 teams. To show you how old I am, I covered that 1977 Hofstra team. The star player was Richie Laurel, who became Portland's No. 1 draft pick that June, and played 10 games in the NBA, all with Milwaukee. I'll buy lunch for the first person who can tell me where Laurel is now.
We are apprehensive here in Bracketville that the NCAA will choose to pin live microphones on coaches, like the NBA does -- and will start with Gary Williams. Whoa, mama! It's troubling that the NBA would pander to its broadcast partners NBC and TNT by miking coaches against their wills, and threatening them with escalating fines beginning at $100,000. Pat Riley, Butch Carter and Paul Westphal were right for refusing to be miked. How can you coach if all critical comments you make about players become public knowledge? If David Stern wants better ratings, let him fix it so Vince Carter, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are playing through May and June.
We are straying off the point here in Bracketville, and we are ready for some parlays:
Natural Disaster Final Four: Red Storm, Cyclones, Waves, Golden Hurricane.
All-Cardinal Final Four: Louisville, Ball State, Lamar, Stanford.
All-Absentee Final Four: Loren Woods (Arizona), Chris Porter (Auburn), Kenyon Martin (Cincinnati), Luke Axtell (Kansas).
Former ACC Coaches Final Four: Cliff Ellis, Pat Kennedy, Rick Barnes, Quin Snyder.
The previous parlays, courtesy of My Man Berko, are actual Final Four possibilities. Please consult your brackets. My Man Berko also suggests an All Dog Final Four : Fresno State, U-Conn., Butler and Samford -- three (of five!) Bulldogs and a Huskie. But in any All Dog parlay, I'd add Purdue.
Who's On First Parlay: Stanford, Samford, Lafayette, Louisiana-Lafayette.
Dopey Things Named B: Bonnies, Billikens, Buckeyes, Ball State.
Oh, Those Illini: Fighting Illini, Flying Dutchmen, Ragin' Cajuns, Runnin' Rebels.
Things You Wouldn't Want To Sit On: Longhorns, Razorbacks, Gators, Bobby Knight.
Her Satanic Majesty's Teams: Duke, Central Connecticut State, DePaul, Seton Hall.
Ecumenical Spirit: St. Bonaventure, St. John's, Saint Louis, Temple.
Exxon Special: Missouri, Auburn, Jackson State, LSU.
You Don't Know Where They Are: Winthrop, Samford, Lamar, Iona.
You Don't Know Who They Are: Winthrop, Samford, Lamar, Binghamton.
American History: Oklahoma State, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee, Appalachian State.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Was Wrong: Mike Deane, Jan van Breda Kolff, Eddie Sutton, Jerry Tarkanian.
Workingmen: Boilermakers, Lumberjacks, Cowboys, Butler.
Rainbow Coalition: Orangemen. (I'm stopping here, because every time I think of Orangemen, I laugh.)
Couldn't They Have Picked a Better Nickname: Utes, Gaels, Sycamores, ORANGEMEN!
How's This for a Better Nickname: Creighton Barrel, Purdue Oven Stuffers, St. John's Wort, Iona Chevy. (This submitted by special correspondent Donald Beard.)
Gonzaga and Valparaiso: Gonzaga, Valparaiso.
Famous Young Point Guards Turned Coaches For $800, Alex: Missouri, Seton Hall, Appalachian State, Florida.
Being Eddie Sutton: Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State.
Big Lumbering Things: Bruins, Razorbacks, Bearcats, Ronald Rollerson.
Real States Final Four: Michigan State, Louisiana State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State.
Fake States: Jackson State, Fresno State, Ball State, Alcorn State.
Birds of Prey: Winthrop Eagles, UNC Wilmington Seahawks, Kansas Jayhawks, David Falk.
Excuse Me, But Your Name Sounds Familiar: Luke Walton, Mike Dunleavy, Saul Smith, Scott Robisch.
Fear of Flying Final Four: Dayton, Hofstra, UNLV, Larry Eustachy. (A My Mon Berko contribution.)
Top Academic Schools Team: Jaraan Cornell (Purdue), Cleotis Brown (Illinois), Scoonie Penn (Ohio State), A.D. Smith (Oregon), Tony Williams (Louisville). This was submitted by special correspondent Walt Petersen.
All Sporting Goods Team: Tayshaun Prince (Kentucky), Dyree Wilson (Iona), Reed Rawlings (Samford), Will Dudley (Ohio State), Matt Cooper (Dayton). Another Petersen contribution.
First Team All-Name: Nick ''Oh, That's'' Huge, Appalachian State; Duany Duany, Wisconsin; Boomer Brazzle, Pepperdine; Koko Archibong, Penn; Commander King, Northern Arizona.
Honorable mentions: the Utah State back court of Bernard Rock 'n' Troy Rolle.
MVP All-Name: Brett ''the Ice Man'' Blizzard, UNC Wilmington.
Now is the time you've all been waiting for, when I turn over the column to Jim Boeheim to predict the winner of this year's NCAA tournament. Boeheim had a rare miss last year, picking Duke, which got to the final, but was beaten by U-Conn. But Boeheim successfully predicted six winners in this space in the '90s. So pay attention:
Boeheim likes St. John's to do well, and Florida and U-Conn. to surprise people. As for the winner, Boeheim has no doubt: ''It's a lock this year,'' he said, ''a lock tournament. It's Michigan State.''
Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy: If Syracuse wins its first two games, here's who it should draw in the round of 16 (in Auburn Hills, Michigan! ): Michigan State.
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